Buchholz praises T&L industry crisis response


VTA warns on DC hygiene; ATA calls for owner-driver focus; banks’ small business relief

Buchholz praises T&L industry crisis response
Scott Buchholz

 

Freight transport has come in for specific praise from Canberra for keeping supplies moving and stores stocked.

Assistant minister for freight transport Scott Buchholz has thanked the transport sector for rising up and meeting the challenges posed by coronavirus Covid-19.

Buchholz joins a range of industry and political players urging Australians to stop panic buying, to stop hoarding food and supplies and to have confidence in the supply chain to deliver. 

"I have absolute confidence in our supply chain to get this done," he says.

"Our truck drivers, carriers and all of those across the supply chain are good at what they do. They are getting stock and supplies to shops all around Australia at this critical time.

"To put the demand task in perspective, we’ve heard from the big supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, that they have dealt with the equivalent of some three Christmas periods in this short time. 

"It would usually take a number of months for these big grocers and stores to prepare for the Christmas rush, but working with the entire logistics and supply chain – they’ve managed to do that three-fold over the last four weeks. 

Buchholz acknowledged and thanked those in the freight transport sector for their efforts in recent weeks.

"We have seen an enormous increase in demand," he says.

"Supply is not the issue, demand is and we have witnessed the transport sector rise to the challenge, to ensure the supermarkets, grocers and stores of Australia have stock.

"I want to also thank the Australian Logistics Council and all of the peak bodies, for coming together at this time and working in the national interest.

"As Government, there have been common sense changes – with states moving on operating hours, to expedite freight and supplies.

"That is happening because of the hard work of our truck drivers, operators and all of those people involved across the supply chain."

Buchholz goes on to underline some home truths about the trucking industry

"You cannot get freight from a train, ship or plane without trucks," he says.

"At this time, trucks are more important than ever in getting our supplies to where they need to go.

"Our freight task is already growing and the recent increase in demand has put great pressure not only on retailers but on the supply chain, and the road freight sector is rising to meet that and I thank them." 

A response has been sought from Buchholz's office to the supply chain accord requested measures

VTA

His intervention comes as the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) emphasises to members and every transport operator and business that works in freight and logistics to practice exceptional hygiene in order to protect and preserve the integrity of national supply chains.

It underlines that, while maximising road access to heavy vehicles and delivery trucks servicing supermarkets remained important, an even greater issue confronting the transport industry and broader community is encouraging good hygiene practices at every step in the supply chain to prevent its collapse.


Read about the momentum for lifting council truck curfews, here


"Covid-19 has demonstrated just how vulnerable supply chains are to disruption and given how contagious the virus is, practicing exceptional personal hygiene and following medical advice has never been more important for people who work in supply chains and logistics," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.

"We’ve issued guidance to our members to remind drivers and other staff to wash their hands regularly, practice social distancing, and keep their working environments – including trucks – clean and disinfected.

"Following medical advice and staying home if staff are feeling unwell is also essential and we’ve been encouraged at how our members have proactively engaged with their workforce to keep them safe."

Anderson says the dozens of large distribution centres around the country where supermarkets warehouse and prepare goods for delivery are especially vulnerable.

"Distribution centres are hives of activity and require warehouse workers to pack pallets and interact with each other and truck drivers to despatch goods to supermarket shelves.

"If coronavirus was introduced to one or more of those centres it would have a ripple effect throughout the supply chain and could impact on the availability of goods and services. We must avoid this at all costs.

"To protect the integrity of these vital places transport workers are discouraged from close interaction with others at these centres, in addition to wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and regularly disinfecting their vehicles.

"Warehouse workers are also following their own protocols and we have every confidence the integrity of these critical facilities can be preserved if everyone works together and does the right thing."

ATA

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) is looking for specific aid for owner-drivers to keep them on the road, noting that they are in a cohort that risks being allowed to fall through the cracks in industry support.

The call is contained in a follow-up submission to federal Treasury for additional measures.

"There are 28,900 owner-drivers in Australia, who make up 54 per cent of the trucking industry. They have a crucial role in our supply chains," ATA chair Geoff Crouch says.

"Owner drivers do not employ staff, so they are not eligible for assistance under the Boosting Cashflow for Employers measure, which the government announced last week.

"But they are not employees either, so they have no access to paid sick leave.

"Our submission recommends that owner drivers and other non-employing businesses should be eligible for financial assistance in the Government’s next economic package, including an equivalent of paid sick leave,"

Crouch says ATA members had consistently identified payroll tax as one of the key financial impediments they will face in the coming months.

"Although the ATA recognises that payroll taxes are the responsibility of the states, governments should unite, through the National Cabinet, to provide businesses with consistent and generous payroll tax exemptions to maintain employment," he adds.

"ATA member associations in each state are ready to provide input to state governments on the additional payroll tax exemptions that industry will require."

The submission also recommends:

an increase in the instant asset write-off threshold to $450,000 for Australian-made equipment, and the extension of the delivery timeframe to 31 December 2020

a 12 month guarantee for small/medium business equipment loan repayments, on top of the banks’ announcement today that they will defer loan repayments for affected small businesses by six months

setting the road user charge on fuel to zero for the June quarter 2020 and deferring the 1 July 2020 increase in the road user and registration charges for a year.

Bank loan deferrals

The ATA call comes as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissions (ACCC) has provided urgent interim authorisation to allow the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and banks to work together to implement a small business relief package.

The package includes:

  • includes a deferral of principal and interest repayments for all term loans and retail loans of a small business customer for six months (interest will be capitalised)
  • will be open to all current small business customers of a participating member bank, where the customer has advised that its business is affected by Covid-19, in all sectors of the economy, and on an opt-in basis.

Member banks may elect to offer the small business relief package. They are also able to individually decide to offer relief that extends beyond the minimum terms of the small business relief package. 

"This assistance package will apply to more than $100bn of existing small business loans and depending on customer take up, could put as much as $8 billion back into the pockets of small businesses as they battle through these difficult times," ABA CEO Anna Bligh says.

Bligh adds that banks are putting in place a fast track approval process to ensure customers receive support as soon as possible and urges any small business who has not already been contacted should contact their bank to apply.

The ATA sees the move as a good step for trucking, with Crouch pointing out that "52,000 of Australia’s 53,200 trucking businesses have fewer than 20 employees. Of these, 28,900 are owner-drivers.

"Many of these businesses will need financial help in the months to come. The banks have stepped up today with a very positive and welcome decision."

 

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